“One of the most exciting things about our research is the direct impact on patient care and safety,” says lead researcher John D. Ferguson. According to the researchers, more than two million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition characterised by an irregular heart rate that can lead to weakness, blood clotting and stroke.
In order to regulate the heart’s rhythm, physicians commonly perform a catheter ablation – a procedure in which doctors use x-ray fluoroscopy to guide a catheter, or flexible tube, to the affected area of the heart. The procedure typically lasts three to four hours, leaving patients and medical providers exposed to significant radiation.
Yet Ferguson’s research team say they have developed and successfully tested a new technique to perform catheter ablation of AF using an ultrasound catheter (intracardiac echocardiography) and electroanatomic mapping without the use of x-ray fluoroscopy for the entire procedure: Using an ultrasound catheter within the heart, physicians can obtain high resolution images of the heart and other key anatomic structures. This provides complete visualisation at all times of the catheter’s location, allowing physicians to steer the tube to affected target areas while avoiding injury to key cardiac structures.
The technique also uses a computer mapping system, which displays in 3D the image of the heart and the catheter’s location and allows physicians to record precise location points along the catheter’s path.
And to further eliminate radiation exposure in AF patients, the new technique uses cardiac MRI instead of CT scans for all required imaging prior to the procedure. Researchers performed the novel technique in a pilot study on 21 consecutive patients. Larger studies are needed to confirm the safety of the procedure.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Virginia Health System